German fans get behind multi-cultural side

By Kate Connolly

Yagiz Dogan is hankering after a pair of orange and silver trainers similar to those worn by German footballer Mesut Ozil.

"I'm saving up for them, after all he's my hero," said the 15-year-old, who lives in a flat in the Berlin district of Neukolln with his Turkish parents and grandparents.

Yagiz has hung a German flag from the window, to the confusion of his mother. "Of course I want Germany to win the World Cup," he said. He also thinks it's fine that Ozil, the German-born son of Turkish immigrants, has chosen to play for Germany rather than Turkey.

"What should be strange about that? He was born here, brought up here, he speaks the language, understands the culture - just like me. I can identify with him."

The boy could be speaking for Ozil himself. But what's clear is how natural it is for a whole generation of young Germans - known as "Generation M" or "multiculti" - that their national football team comes from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Not only is this German team the youngest it has been since 1934 - half the squad are 24 or under - it is also the most ethnically diverse it has ever been. No fewer than half of the players were either born outside Germany, are the sons of immigrants, or have one non-German parent.

The effect of such a radical transition cannot be overstated in a country that for years did not consider itself a land of immigration, and where foreigners brought in to fill the skills gap were called "guest workers" on the understanding, or hope, they would go home.

The change has come about thanks to a 1999 revamp of laws that had dated back to the days of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Half the players in the current team would not have been allowed in just over a decade ago.

Some bloggers on far-right websites railed in anger after Germany's swashbuckling 4-0 defeat of Australia a fortnight ago, insisting that the team was now "no longer German". But the team has won over the hearts of most Germans, who are delighted by the verve and fearlessness the new generation has injected into the game.

Ozil said he saw his "Turkish side" come out in his technique and feel for the ball, "and the give-it-your-all attitude to my game is the German part of me".

It is hard to believe Ozil, 21, who recites the Koran during the national anthem, would have been accepted to the degree he has been, even five years ago.Observer

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